Do the French really not wear turtlenecks?

(asked by Petite Tea Cup from the US)

I have a question that has been bugging.
This lady came into the store I work at, looking to try on clothes. When a co-worker offered some turtleneck shirts, she said she didn’t wear turtlenecks because she believed she was French in a former life. Apparently, the French don’t wear turtlenecks because it interferes with all the scarf wearing.
When the co-working told me this story I said it simply wasn’t true. Plenty of my relatives from France wore turtlenecks. It was difficult to explain without bringing the stereotype dilemma.
Though I am of French decent (not born or raised there,) I have no proof/form of justifying my answer.
So M. Frenchman, do the French really not wear turtlenecks?
Well, I had to pause for a second after laughing that hard, I still have tears in my eyes (ok, that’s a total lie, as I read this question for the first time months ago, when I received it… but I laughed hard then).
Why on Earth would you believe any word coming out from the mouth of somebody saying “I believe I was /insert whatever comes through your mind here/ in another life”
This phrase is one of the stupidest that can be said and anyone saying it and not joking (and yes, I’ve heard it a lot)  is either totally delusional, borderline psycho and/or full of shit.
I’m not going to get into the intricacies of metempsychosis here, but if reincarnation actually exists (which is even less likely than the concepts of heaven and hell being real, but let’s not get into that debate now), there is no way to know what you were in a previous life.
Actually, you only hear Westerners say that whole “I was Tutankhamun in another life” idiocy, most of the time they’re Christians (does this make them heretics?) or so-called Pagan. You’ll never ever hear people that are Hindus or Buddhists (you know, people that actually believe in reincarnation) say that. Guess why?
But I’m straying away from the question here.
Does he look French to you?
So, I guess to answer your question, I’m going to have to check in my closet.
Let’s see…
So, I found two turtleneck shirts but they belong to my wife and she’s not French, so that’s not helping…
Let’s rummage through it a little more…
Wow! Guess what I found? They’re turtleneck sweaters, not turtleneck shirts, but there are three of them! Three!!! And they belong to me! Me, a Frenchman!!!
So if those don’t exist in France, I must hold on to them preciously, as they’re rarities and must be worth a lot of money… That, or because it’s the winter sales right now, I could go and buy some more some time this week as two of them are not that new anymore…
Does this answer your question?

Edit: I should have added something about the lameness of that “scarf cliché” about French people (one of the stupidest stereotype about France in my opinion) but that will be for another time.

Frenchman Written by:


  1. Susan
    January 17, 2011

    Hilarious! and I speak as someone who is not French, but lives in France … and as it happens I'm wearing a turtleneck - purchased here.

  2. Margaret
    January 18, 2011

    No, no! DO tell us about the scarf cliché…:-D

  3. Autolycus
    January 18, 2011

    I suppose, if you believe you're a reincarnation of Marie Antoinette (amazing how people rarely believe they're the reincarnation of a humble sewer-cleaner or the like), you might believe a turtle-neck would blunt the guillotine and make the experience even more gruesome.

  4. Frenchman
    January 18, 2011

    @ Margaret: I guess I will someday… But there isn't much more to say than "clueless American wannabe fashionistas are convinced French people wear scarves" which can't be further from the truth. We'll talk about it another day I guess (and I won't publish comments debating that "issue" here).

    @ Autolycus: good points. 🙂

    • Mar
      July 1, 2011

      It’s funny this was brought up. There is a similar image of Montreal - we always wear scarves. And why do we always wear scarves? Because we’re the French Canada. However, maybe yes we tend to wear scarves a little more than our English friends in Toronto, it is not because it is a fashion statement. It gets REALLY cold! So, my point is (and I am assuming this is the same for France)… yes scarves are worn when it is cold… but they aren’t worn all the time. Everyone is all about the V-Necks now anyway. Everyone wants to show that neck. Scarves obviously go against that. Maybe there is this image of us always wearing scarves because Montreal (and I’m assuming French) men are more comfortable wearing them when necessary. Male americans and rest of Canada are not (for a reason that I cannot figure out).

  5. La Petite Blogueuse
    January 22, 2011

    I wear them (both in and out of France) in winter and after reading this post I looked around and there were lots of French people (both male/female) wearing them… that person doesn't know what they are talking about!

  6. Frenchman
    January 22, 2011

    To tell the truth, when I first got this question, my first reaction (well after laughing at the woman who thought she had been French) was to ask myself "but aren't turtlenecks French?" I mean, France is the country where I've seen the most turtlenecks around (but then again, except for the US, I never spent much time abroad during Winter). 🙂
    (and no, they're not French, although I couldn't tell where exactly they're from, I'd lean towards Britain)

  7. astheroshe
    January 30, 2011

    i thought the french only wore Berets and stripped sailor shirts?

  8. Frenchman
    January 30, 2011

    We do. That's why we designed such things as turtleneck berets and turtleneck striped sailor shirts. For variety.

  9. BritishFrancophile
    April 26, 2013

    I don’t know about France but it is very, very rare t see anyone in the UK wearing anything turtle necked

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